I am frequently asked what it is like to be Bill Shankly’s grandson. The grandson of a certified legend. The Godfather of England’s most successful football team and one of the biggest club’s in the world. My answer is rather cliched but an honest one nevertheless; Proud.
The first I remember of it is being at junior school. My full name is Christopher William Shankly Carline and it appeared as so in the register. I remember some kids whose roll was that of the register monitors, had taken it upon themselves to look through said register and noted my rather long name and its ‘famous’ content.
My First Match
Faced with a mountain of questions; it then dawned on me the magnitude of who my granddad had been.
I had been going the match since I was 5 years old, on a season ticket (one of a pair) I still have to this day that had actually been given to Grandy himself when he retired. My love of football and the club however had been fostered not as a result of who my granddad was, but as it would for any young lad growing up in the City; watching a successful team and being encapsulated by a stadium that when in full swing; is unrivaled all the world over.
I knew Grandy had been important, particularly to Liverpool Football Club; that much was obvious; but I never really appreciated in what way and the detail behind it until I was much older. I just knew the reaction it would bring when people conveyed who my famous granddad was, whether it be kids, dads, mums, grandparents, aunties, uncles, whoever, people were always taken with the news.
One of my favourite things that stems from being related to him; is that almost everyone of age who finds out I’m related to him has a story about him. About when they met him. After the initial excitement; the next sentence would always invariably be, “I met your granddad once…….” I love that.
People have told me unbelievable stories that help to build a picture in your mind of the man he was, in addition to everything my Nan and mum would tell me about him too. It was as I got older and became a veteran of these wonderful stories that I began to realise just how amazing a person he was, and how and why his achievements are lauded so greatly.
As a die-hard red who has now clocked up 30 years of going the game; and who has seen my fair share of false dawns at the club in the modern era; it only enhances just how special he was; to have come from nowhere and taken a club from mediocrity to the pinnacle of the game; in the way it SHOULD be done, and not the way these false pretenders haul themselves to the top of the game nowadays based on nothing but the almighty buck.
I’m proud to be able to say that my team is one of the greatest in the world, a dynasty with breath-taking history that was built on proper foundations.
Whatever happens in the future, nobody can take that away from us. It goes without saying therefore that I am even prouder to say it was my granddad that facilitated this.
It’s the eyes lad, it’s the eyes
By far and away the most satisfying for me however; is the fact that my Nan; Nessie and my mum, told me and in my mums case, continues to tell me; that everything about me is him. I literally get everything from him.
My Nan would often get upset when I went to see her, when I would stand up as I was growing up, and with a tear in her eye she would say,
My word love, you are just Bill
I was told by her that I look like him. That I walk like him. That I have his mannerisms. That I have his same thought processes. That I have his distinct lack of dancing ability. That I have his inability to successfully carry out anything DIY related. That I like the same style movies as him.
My mum tells me I’m as bad a driver as he was, but I dispute that!
Nan’s house was like am museum, and one thing I distinctly remember was a brown colored bust of Grandy’s head in the box room. It used to scare me. When I’d go the toilet I would hope the box room door was closed. Of course, many of the artefacts will be on display in the museum.
Even now when people find out, they tell me I am his image “It’s the eyes lad, it’s the eyes,” is the most used comment.
Across a crowded Syntagma Square in Athens 2007, well known red legend and author Peter Etherington approached me as my Shankly t-shirt caught his eye, but that even more strikingly, so had my resemblance to Shankly. He was astounded when he found out and we spent a good couple of hours chatting. He was extremely kind to send my mum and I copies of his books when he returned to Liverpool. A lovely gesture that hasn’t been forgotten.
By far and away however; one of the best stories and most bizarre came a good few years back now.
When I was a lot younger, I took Liverpool losing quite badly. I’d be moody and bad tempered and agitated for hours afterwards. This particular time we had been beaten by Leeds at Anfield. I remember Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink got a couple and it was just as they were coming good under O’Leary I think.
I returned home to West Derby with my mum who was at the time, still going the game with me on the second season ticket. I paced around the house like a bear with a sore head, and found myself in the kitchen, whereby for no real reason (at the time I thought), I picked up the towel and cloth and started cleaning the cooker. My mum at this point was making her way into the kitchen from the living room and upon being greeted with her son cleaning the cooker, stopped dead in her track and let out a bit of a shriek.
I was startled and asked her what was wrong; thinking something bad had happened. Nothing of the sort. She instead proceeded to tell me that unbeknownst to me at this point, whenever Liverpool lost, Grandy had a habit of coming home and cleaning the cooker! Here was me, his only grandson, stood with cloth in hand giving the cooker a good going over in the face of defeat to Leeds Utd at Anfield. It was spine tingling to say the least for us all.
The Shankly Legacy
It makes me proud to know that I am so like him. I’ve been going the game since I was 5, and when people find out; I get treated like royalty. It’s surreal but nice at the same time.
When I started the Shankly Family Foundation; I did it as it was something I wanted to do for people; and a way of celebrating and sustaining the Shankly legacy. I hadn’t really stopped to think how it was very similar to Grandy’s socialist ideals. To coin the phrase, ‘he made the people happy’ and everything he did was with his strong socialist ideals in his heart.
I think in that respect therefore he’d have been extremely proud, along with my Nan of what we are doing with the Foundation and the hotel and it gives me heart to know that it’s further evidence that I am very much like him.
After all, I couldn’t have a better person to look up to.
Christopher William Shankly Carline